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Psychol Rev. 2002 Jan;109(1):186-201.

Pattern and process in the evolution of learning.

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Department of Psychology, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth 76129, USA.


A century after E. L. Thorndike's (1898) dissertation on the comparative psychology of learning, the field seems ready for a reassessment of its metatheoretical foundations. The stability of learning phenotypes across species is shown to be similar to that of other biological characters, both genotypic (e.g., Hox genes) and phenotypic (e.g., vertebrate brain structure). Moreover, an analysis of some current lines of comparative research indicates that researchers use similar strategies when approaching problems from either an ecological view (emphasizing adaptive significance) or a general-process view (emphasizing commonality across species). An integration of learning and evolution requires the development of criteria for recognizing and studying the divergence, homology, and homoplasy of learning mechanisms, much as it is done in other branches of biological research.

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